by J Scott Christianson, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist
The time has come for a serious overhaul of Missouri’s election and campaign finance laws. And as I see it, there are three things that we need to change to have more democratic, transparent and responsive state government.
First, get rid of term limits for members of Missouri’s legislative branch. The original intent of term limits was to bust up the entrenched power in Jefferson City and reduce the unfair advantages of incumbency by creating more open races. The outcome would be more “citizen legislators” carrying the will of the people forward and then returning to private life. Think of George Washington living in Mount Pleasant instead of Mount Vernon.
However, term limits have done more harm to government than good. They have done nothing to reduce the advantage held by incumbents, have only accelerated the money race, have reduced the average tenure in the General Assembly to three years and have increased the influence of monied special interests in Jefferson City.
One of the most noted supporters of term limits, former Congressman Mel Hancock, now advocates abolishing term limits. “I was directly involved in the initiative petition drive to place the term limit amendment on the Missouri Constitution. I helped get signatures, raised money and campaigned for its passage. I was wrong,” Hancock wrote in a recent editorial.
Hancock continued: “My erroneous conclusion was that term-limited representatives would have to return to the private sector. They would then have to live with the laws they passed while they held public office. I failed to consider one major fault that was an unintended consequence. Due to the rapid increase in the number of government jobs, term limits created an atmosphere whereby elected representatives can pass laws arranging for their personal future income both in government and the private sector. They can create government jobs for after they leave office by passing special interest legislation, with a job in mind, while holding public office. They can even lobby for jobs as lobbyists. This is not only unethical, but also dangerous to the welfare of the taxpayers. … I regret my mistake.”
Term limits also go against the idea of democratically elected representatives. For example, from 1994 to 2002, Tim Harlan was my representative in the Missouri House. Harlan represented me and my values well in the General…